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Category Archives: Highway Engineering
Early December 2020, Metro Pacific Corporation suddenly had to deal with jam-packed toll plazas and queues that affected roads connecting to the North Luzon Expressways. Fast-forward and Valenzuela City apparently had enough of it and revoked the tollway corporation’s business permit. Later, matters were resolved with the tollways reverting to mixed toll collection to manage the queues at the toll plazas.
Prior to this, tollways corporation scrambled to meet the deadline set and re-set by the Department of Transportation (DOTr) through the Toll Regulatory Board (TRB) for contactless, cashless toll payments. The question is if there was enough time for tollway operators to acquire the best (not just the minimum required) system for this endeavor. There are some opinions that this was basically required on short notice and for the government to get some brownie points for this.
Were there issues about technology and the corresponding costs to the acquisition and deployment of the necessary devices for seamless, contactless, delay-free (in relative terms) transactions for tollways? Probably so. Those RFIDs and the readers installed at strategic locations along tollways (i.e., entries and exits) were certainly not state of the art or the best available out there. Singapore, for example, uses a more sophisticated system for their expressways where you no longer have toll plazas and you won’t have to slow down to be detected by the system. That system has corresponding costs but is perfect for the city state given that most roads are tolled anyway because of their road pricing policy. In the case of our tollways, not all travelers are actually going to utilize the tollways as frequently as it would necessitate them having to get either the Easy Trip or Auto Sweep tags. That is obvious from the relatively low penetration rates for electronic toll collection (ETC). So it still makes sense to have hybrid booths for those not availing the ETC option. Anyway, travelers will have to exercise disinfection protocols to ensure infections are prevented.
Here’s another quick share of an article mainly about asphalt as a material used for roads, parking lots and roofs:
Pullano, N. (2020) “Sun-heated streets can lead to air pollution strikes – study”, Inverse, https://www.inverse.com/science/summer-streets-beat-the-heat?link_uid=15&utm_campaign=inverse-daily-2020-09-03&utm_medium=inverse&utm_source=newsletter [Last accessed: 9/6/2020]
While we have a significant number of roads with asphalt paving or surfacing, the majority of roads are of Portland cement concrete (PCC). Most lots are also PCC or gravel. And unlike in the US, most roofs here are made of galvanized iron (GI) sheets or even clay tiles.
Here is a nice article from the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine about how transportation research makes roads safer for students as they go back to school:
There is a wealth of information there, and one should browse and perhaps download resources shared that can be useful references not just for those in North America but elsewhere towards making journeys between homes and schools.
Scene near a public school in Zamboanga City [photo taken in June 2019]
We, too, have several initiatives towards making the journeys of children safer between their homes and schools. It is something that all of us find essential and worthwhile. Children, after all, represent our future and making their journeys safer gives them better chances to succeed in life. It also shows them examples that they can replicate for their own future children. I will write more about these as we obtain the data and perform our assessment.
I recently saw what looks like a project of the City of Antipolo where several pedestrian crosswalks are being painted over with artwork including a basic road safety message. The photo below shows one in progress across from the Provincial Capitol (aka Ynares) along the Antipolo City Circumferential Road.
Photo of artwork in progress to cover the existing pedestrian crossing (zebra) pavement markings at the Rizal Provincial Capitol
Recently, I’ve seen news reports and posts by the proponents being shared in social media about the project. From what I’ve learned from reliable sources within the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), this is an initiative with the blessing of the city and did not go through the DPWH. The main concern here is whether this ‘innovation’ of sorts will be effective and if the artist(s) behind the project used the proper materials (i.e., paint for pavement markings that are supposed to be highly visible day or night) for this project. If not, then this is just street art similar to what artists did on the UP Academic Oval a few years ago in front of Palma Hall. Sorry to blow your bubble but its more a publicity stunt than a safety device if proponents do not use the proper materials. I hesitate to use the term ‘design standards’ here because this is supposed to be artwork and perhaps the word ‘standard’ doesn’t apply. But to claim this enhances safety is at this point a stretch.
More first-hand photos soon…
Here’s one of those quick shares that I usually post here. I am a bit of a history buff and mixing that with transport will likely lead to a post like this. Here is a short article about an event in the history of the US Army that happened 100 years ago:
firstname.lastname@example.org (2019) Celebrating Highway History: The US Army’s 1919 Cross-Country Convoy, aashto.org, https://aashtojournal.org/2019/07/12/celebrating-highway-history-the-u-s-armys-1919-cross-country-convoy/ [Last accessed: July 12, 2019]
The article was particularly interesting for me because of two items: the road conditions and the man behind the US inter-state highway system. It took them a little over 2 months to cross the continental US because of poor road conditions. Many people have no sense of history and appreciation of what has been accomplished over the years and how difficult it was to travel at the time. I haven’t done the cross country trip but I have close friends who’ve done it and are thankful for the generally good roads they could use for the experiential road trip. Meanwhile, the person in the article – then Lt. Col. Dwight D. Eisenhower – is a man who made his mark in history at first as the Supreme Commander of the Allied forces in the European Theater in World War 2, who would later on become President of the US. I read elsewhere that the US interstate highway system was designed so aircraft may use them as runways in cases when the US were at war and the enemy had bombed their airports and airfields (just like what the Japanese did in the Pacific).
Do we have similar accounts for our roads and bridges in the Philippines? Were there key persons who may or may not be larger than life figures instrumental in developing our road infrastructure with their vision and leadership (Marcos doesn’t count because of his bogus military record and corrupt regime)? It would be nice to compile these and perhaps it should be a collaboration between the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and the National Historical Commission (NHC). They could even get the history departments of local universities involved for us to understand the evolution of transportation in this country.
Previously, I posted about the reservoir roads we crossed when we traveled to Baler, Aurora last April 2019. It’s been a while since that post so before I forget, here are more photos of those reservoir roads taken during our return trip from Baler.
The two lane highway becomes a single lane section at the Diayo River Reservoir road
A view of the fish pens at the Diayo River reservoir
Pristine waters with the Sierra Madre mountain range in the background
Approaching the end of the Diayo reservoir road
There is a checkpoint at the 2-lane section bridging the Diayo reservoir road with the Canili River reservoir road
Vehicles entering the Canili reservoir road – this again is a one-lane, one-way section where vehicles from either direction would have to give way to either.
Shoulder and fish pens
Waters of the Canili River Reservoir with the Sierra Madre mountains in the background
Fishermen on a banca – they looked like they were inspecting their fish pens
There is an excellent article on the efficiency of transportation systems:
Gleave, J. (2019) Space/Time and Transport Planning, Transport Futures, https://transportfutures.co/space-time-and-transport-planning-1aae891194e5 [Last accessed: February 25, 2019].
It is highly recommended not just for academics (including students) but also for anyone interested in transportation and traffic. It’s like a crash course in transportation engineering with a lot of basic concepts in traffic engineering and traffic flow theory being presented for easy understanding by anyone. Enjoy!
We start the month of March with a compilation of photos of vertical curves (mostly sags). These were taken along the Andaya Highway, which serves as the main bypass road in Camarines that allows travellers to bypass, for example, Daet.
These photos do not have captions and I leave it to my readers to have an appreciation of the features of these sections. These include wide carriageways with paved shoulders. There are also sections that have no shoulders. For most photos, the pavement appears to be in good condition. However, the same cannot be said for much of the highway, sections of which are being rehabilitated along with several bridges.
I recently featured photos of the old zigzag road along the Pan Philippine Highway that is more popularly known as the “Bitukang Manok”. Those photos were taken on an early morning while we were on our way to Bicol earlier this month. Following are photos of the old zigzag road taken on the afternoon of our return trip to Manila.
Crossroads – at the intersection at the southern end where travellers decide whether to take the Bitukang Manok or the newer and easier bypass road
The sign states: Vehicles with 6 or more wheels are prohibited from using the old zig-zag road.
Sign for the Quezon National Forest Park – this designation is attributed to a former President and local congressman
Here’s a photo of one of the more challenging sections. A team of flagmen manage traffic by giving turns to either direction, ensuring slower speeds and wider turning at the hairpin curve. Travelers often toss coins as a token of gratitude for these flagmen who man this challenging section of the national highway 24 hours/day.
The barriers and signs along Bitukang Manok have been upgraded and are well-maintained.
Approach to the northern end of the old zigzag road
Directional sign at the other end of Bitukang Manok showing the options for travellers and another advisory stating the prohibition of large vehicles along the old zigzag road.
I woke up from a long nap just before we entered a major zigzag section of the Pan Philippine Highway that is more popularly known as the “Bitukang Manok”. That literally translates to “chicken innards or intestines”, which is how many travellers would describe the alignment of this section of the national highway network. We decided to take the “old zigzag road” instead of the “new diversion road” since the latter is known to be already congested especially as trucks and buses take this road instead of the zigzag.
Expectedly, the road offered all kinds of curves and grades throughout. I was glad to see relatively new barriers already installed or constructed along the entire length of Bitukang Manok.
Here is a particularly challenging section combining sharp hairpin curves with steep inclines.
We caught up with this rider along a relatively straight and level segment of the road
There are flagmen strategically deployed along the most difficult parts of the road including this one that might lead inexperienced or erring drivers to drive/ride straight off a cliff.
Here’s another hairpin curve; this time on the way down from the mountain.
The final turn of the road before it merged with the diversion road
Sign at the other end of the road showing travellers the divergence of the national highway into the “old zigzag road” and the “new diversion road”. Notice the platoon of southbound trucks at right.
I remember Bitukang Manok as a dreaded section among travellers before not just from the safety viewpoint but also because many can get sick (e.g., motion sickness that may result into throwing up) going through the section especially if the driver is not as smooth in manoeuvring the vehicle through the zigzags. There were also long distance bicycle races before where the Bitukang Manok featured as the main challenge to the best cyclists and the winner of that leg of the race was pronounced as “king of the mountain”.